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IRON DM 2013--Entries, Judgements, Commentary, & Trash-Talk

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Radiating Gnome

Jeez, Radiating Gnome! I can't help but think there's gotta be some way to cut down the length of that block of exposition... :p
Ha. Smartass. I deserved that.

Actually, I was feeling really smug when I started writing my entry - "I'm going to jump right in and skip over any sort of backstory -- it's not necessary" then I realized I'd just moved backstory into the damn exposition that Cringle gives. So, I figured, what the hell, label it what it is (exposition) and move on from there.

Had I been writing for HBO, someone would have been having sex while you read that part.

As I did last time, I wrote a reflection on writing the entry after I posted, but before seeing the judgement. Here's how that went:

I found this batch of ingredients incredibly frustrating.

Weeping Willow and Sinking Ship seemed very cool, easy to tie together. Trust is vague, but that leaves a lot of room. Beginning of Time seems to force a time travel adventure, which I tend to dislike handful of reasons. And unlikely Appointment is a weird one open to a lot of interpretations.

But "nobody special". That one's pure evil.

I mean, think about it. Lots of our stories are about "everyman" and "John Q Public" -- at least at the start -- but those stories tend to be about how that person rises to the occasion, how they BECOME someone special -- which means they're not really nobody special at all, just someone who's special-ness hasn't been revealed yet.

So, how do you work with nobody special? How do you keep that someone not special at all -- they don't get a name,they don't become something special, they could be anyone?

F***ed if I know.

The other thing that struck me about this batch of ingredients was that it really didn't feel like a D&D adventure to me. Time, trees, sinking ships….these are all elements that really were tugging me in another direction.

So, I spent a bunch of time thinking about how to try to connect things. The Willow and beginning of time…. that seemed like a natural connection, somehow. I knew time travel was going to have to be part of it, but one thing I really did not want to do with this adventure is create one of my pet peeve Iron DM tropes -- the travelogue adventure through ingredients connected by magical travel.

What I mean is this -- it's not unusual to see an Iron DM entry that uses some sort of magical travel -- time travel, extra planar travel, whatever -- to string together three totally weird and unrelated scenes that just happen to cover the difficult ingredients for the contest. I felt the ingredients, with the influence of time travel, trying to pull me into that trope, setting up one sinking ship as one scene, one that led to trust somehow, another that led to a willow tree. Boom, dust off your hands, and you're done. Meh.

So, I started trying to force some more organic links between elements. Like I said, trees and time connect pretty well for me. The specific of the Weeping Willow put me onto Sorrow as a theme to play out. Of course, the Titanic fits that pretty well. The throwaway joke about Lovecraft's elder gods and tentacled horrors being blurry images of the willow tree amused me, and I left it in.

So… the tree is somehow at the beginning of time, and it's setting the tone for the age because it's a weeping willow. It's a tree of sorrow, and that's why we have troubles, blah blah blah. I'm on the hunt now.

The idea of trees and time brought me Santa Claus (Chris Cringle) as the servant of the Evergreen trees and their ideas about how time and reality should be ordered. At first, his intentions were good and sincere -- ending the age of sorrow would put another tree on top and things would be better for humanity.

Of course, that got stuck in my head pretty quickly -- like "nobody special", the idea of ending sorrow has all kinds of consequences when you lay it out. Without sorrow or need or pain or difficulty, we would never be driven to achieve or improve. So, the idea that the Age of Sorrow is the Age of Man got fleshed out a little bit.

And then, I was left looking at my desire to NOT have a travelogue. The players needed to go to one place, and somehow that one thing they did would change everything.

So, as I often do when I'm stuck, I start browsing around on Wikipedia. I've still got the "nobody special" thing rattling around, not sure what to do with, and I start looking at all the "special" people who died on the titanic. I start looking for someone special in the list of passengers whose survival might have been a very good thing -- someone whose good works ended because he or she died when the ship went down. Reading about Stead cemented that one for me. He was very special, and yet behaved very selflessly and honorably, and died for it.

He, of course, was just one man, but as a symbol, he could mean everything.

So, I started piecing things together.

Looking at my use of ingredients…..unlikely appointment may be sort of weak, tacked on as the hook. I talked myself into settling for that -- you're never going to get everything just right, especially on a list of ingredients this hard. Weeping willow is pretty good -- it's a tree, it's important, and it's specifically important as what it is -- a symbol of sorrow. Sinking Ship is absolutely covered. Beginning of time is workable. Trust -- the Pcs have to win Stead's trust twice. Could get dinged there. Nobody Special -- that nobody is not really keyed in the adventure --it's anyone nameless, available on the scene. I could get dinged there, too, but I think I did well with it -- once you name and describe the person, they start to become special.

And, as a final note, lets talk for a minute about editing. My entry -- coming in under the word count limit -- didn't get the rigorous comb-through it usually gets, and you can totally see it. This, alone, should cost me dearly:

"They find the elderly Chinese woman sitting beneath the tree, crying. She greets them with a weak smile, and they turn and see the grove of pine trees is dead. Nearby, the grove of pine trees is a charred, dead wreck. There are signs of the wounds given to Cringle and his allies on the trees there. All of the trees there are clearly dead, and as the players watch they turn to ash and blow away. "

But, wait, there were dead trees? Where?[/SBLOCK]

Thanks to DeuceTraveller -- his excellent entry proves that all that stuff I couldn't see a good way to do was totally doable. By my entry had more Santa, I guess, and everyone loves Christmas.


Radiating Gnome

You'll pay for that....

<sharpens pencil>

<blows shavings onto floor>

<feels guilty, looks around, then cleans up the big pieces>

<sits back down>



Once A Fool
Championship Match: Wicht vs. Radiating Gnome

[MENTION=221]Wicht[/MENTION] and [MENTION=150]Radiating Gnome[/MENTION], you have 48 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to 2000 words. Please include a list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Neither the list of ingredients at the beginning of your entry, nor the title, will count against this limit, but everything else (including any definitions or descriptions of your ingredients that you may wish to include) will! Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Your ingredients are:


Successful Enterprise


Insufferable Ally

Something Wicked

Last edited:


Once A Fool
While we're waiting, would either of the other Round 2 contestants like to tell us about their creative processes for those entries?


First Post
While we're waiting, would either of the other Round 2 contestants like to tell us about their creative processes for those entries?
Sure. :)

While last round was pretty quick in how I managed to think something up, this set had me puzzled.

The really troublesome ones for me were Diplomatic Immunity and Impossible Dream. Impossible Dream is, of course, easily a thematic element, but how do you use it and make it really impossible? It ended up becoming motivation for the bad guy, but that came about later. Diplomatic Immunity was just a pain. It seemed there was not much in the way of making it really interesting to the adventure, particularly with the state of the other ingredients.

Over a few hours at work, I got to thinking about an Artificial Intelligence and how it might interact with things, especially with regard to the “natural order” and the divine. Being artificial, there really wouldn’t be a place for it among nature or the creations of the various deities. The other part of the AI bit that stuck out to me was the idea that, however advanced it was, it would still be similar to a computer and thus governed by certain rules. The most prominent of those rules, for a thinking machine, would likely be logic. And over the many, many years of its existence, it would witness the numerous holy wars instigated by all manner of gods, followed by the mass deaths of the mortals following them. Coming to hate this pointless order of things would drive it to cause the End of the World so as to kill the gods to fulfill an Impossible Dream. The dream’s impossibility is because, largely due to the nature of how the divine seems to work in D&D, mortals will ascribe power to various things and then believe them to be gods, thus fueling the creation of gods with their worship. And with the AI’s plan to rebuild the world free of gods, the new mortals would be confronted with this nigh-indestructible, impossibly powerful mechanical creation that was clearly bigger and stronger than they were and capable of performing what would seem like miracles. Sounds like a clear recipe for immediate worship, especially from a primitive people.
I think I ended up kinda going for a fanatic-style Shockwave (from Transformers, particularly the new material in the Fall of Cybertron game and the Prime TV show, as I really haven't had much experience with him in Gen1).

I settled on using Unearth both in its standard definitions (literally digging or figuratively doing so to uncover evidence) and as a quick name for the engine created by Arkaz to allow him to remake the world. Had I had more words, I would have gone into a better explanation of the place. :p

Diplomatic Immunity finally came around as the concealment used by Arkaz as it made rounds of the planes, weakening the gods. The idea was, “Arkaz did it? You can’t be serious. It came here under banner of diplomacy and wouldn’t threaten relations like this. It must be caused by someone else,” would be the sort of reaction to anyone suspecting Arkaz. And to make the PCs interact with it a bit (and hey, they could throw a little weight around some godly courts), I decided to offer it to them, too.

I came up with Harleckee as an additional sort of visitor to the various divine realms. I thought it was an okay use, but I wasn’t thrilled with him. Mainly it was a way to use the ingredient and provide some hints/clues to the PCs. And like I said before, I hadn’t even thought of Wise Fool applying to Arkaz, which is a far better interpretation of the ingredient.

With those building blocks, I came up with some events to set things in motion, things for the PCs to interact with and handle (I would have really liked to highlight more of the strife happening on the Material Plane), and a work-up of events. It took a while, and I honestly wasn’t thrilled with the result. My previous entry seemed to ooze (if you’ll pardon the little joke) style, while this one seemed more flat. It didn’t help that I wasn’t really pleased with my own use of a few of the ingredients.

When I had finished writing it up, I stepped away for a bit. I came back to try to edit and tweak things, but I just couldn’t find anywhere I could feasibly do so while maintaining the adventure. And at that point, there was no way I was going to cut and rework large portions of it, however much it turned out I should have.

By the way, curse you, limited word count! :p

Regardless, I did have fun during all this. If anyone reading this is on the fence about whether to sign up next year, I say to go for it. The competition is amazing for making you think and write quickly, while also making you throw together some really weird and engaging stuff.


Successful Enterprise
Insufferable Ally
Something Wicked

The Luck of the Mighty
a PFRPG adventure

In the very beginning, one of the gods, left a small piece of highly condensed space and time on the material plan. This piece of ultramatter, shaped like a small red stone, by its very nature, bent time and space around it so that all events, people and places in its vicinity, stretching from the beginning of time to the end, potentially coexisted at the same intersection of reality. This piece of ultramatter is known as the Actuality Hook. Though mostly harmless on its own, the Actuality Hook, in the hands of a powerful mind, can be used to transport things and people across time and space.

Two Thousand years ago, the wizard-lord Vonshpin unleashed three beings of pure malicious thought out into the world. One of these psypossessors took over the body of an infant gold dragon and has lived for all of that time in that body. This dragon, known as Raxkalmon the Mighty, rules as supreme tyrant of the Jungle Kingdom of Lakxan, Though many give him the benefit of the doubt due to his heritage and the general reputation of gold dragons, it has long been suspected that he is capable of great acts of deception and cruelty. The palace of Raxkalmon is called the Morphic Palace and lies half in and half out of the Plane of Dreams. Moreover, for many years, Raxkalmon has had possession of the Actuality Hook, keeping it in the depths of his palace and using it to draw forth subjects from both past and future.

Twenty-seven years ago, Levortin “Levo” Goldmanse VII was born, the seventh son sired from a line of six other seventh sons. At his birth, the god of the hunt blessed young Levo with the perfect hunter's eye and the god of luck blessed the child with the best luck in the world. However, the god of misfortune, after the other two had spoken, decreed that should Levo ever lose an archery contest, his fortunes would turn. In the years since, Levo has become rather renowned as a rather lucky sort of hero, able to perform the most fantastic feats of archery.

One year ago, the ruins of ancient Monassan were discovered east of the city of Hillsfold, setting in motion a chain of events; one of which was decision by Raxkalmon the Mighty to send an army of his subjects northward, with the goal of marching across the Kingdom and capturing Hillsfold, so as to claim the untold treasures still buried in the wizards' ancient city. The army has just reached the borders to the south and rumors of war are beginning to filter through the country.

Adventure Summary:
The PCs, who it is expected, are the most renowned heroes in Hillsfold by this time, are invited by one of the city council to enter into a contest with the Kingdom's best archer. The archer's name is Levortin”Levo to his friends,” Goldmanse VII, and he is in town because the King wants him to meet with the PCs. The archery contest, which the PCs have no real chance of winning, allows them to meet Levortin “Everyone just calls me Levo” Goldmanse VII, who seems like a likeable individual, although he's a little full of his abilities (albeit with reason).

Following the contest, Levo, the PCs and several dignitaries, including Bishop Alzarn, a native of Hillsfold, and Grand Celestial Clergy of the King's Own, meet in a secure room. The PCs learn the truth of the war that is coming, and the fact that while many of the soldiers of Raxkalmon use conventional weapons, indeed some use weapons quite archaic in their design, others are armed with such mighty weapons that the world has rarely seen their like. The King's Own has decided that the best course of action is to send a small squad into the dragon's Morphic Palace in the southern jungles and end the war at the source. Divination about the palace is hard to come by, yet the gods have revealed two facts: the dragon who is not a dragon must be slain by a sword that is not a sword, and, the anchor of reality must be undone by a single perfect shot. Based on these foretellings, research has been done, and a plan has been made. The PCs are asked to escort Levortin “no really, Levo will do nicely,” westward to the city of Baskue where the Monks of Irskbin will deliver into his hands a perfect arrow capable of shattering the Actuality Hook, which s in the dragon's control. From there they must journey to the Port of Demarn where the church has gathered a contingent of thirty powerful clerics to fashion a deadly piece of negative energy into the outward form of a sword. Each of these two weapons is useable once. With weapons in hand they will need to sneak into the dragon's palace, strike the dragon with the sword, and shatter the Actuality Hook with a perfect shot using the Perfect Arrow. The PCs and Levortin “Stick with me and it'll all work out” Goldmanse VII are asked to take the King's Oath before beginning: to see the deed done, to be true to one another, protecting one another against all foes. The Kings Oath functions like a self-inflicted geas (no save).

The trip to Baskue goes smoothly until the party is attacked by a large group of soldiers affiliated with Raxkalmon. The attackers speak in a dead language to each other and are armed with weapons bearing a design from an empire 4000 years in the past. In the attack, the party gets to witness Levortin “It just come's natural to me I guess” Goldmanse VII's incredible luck and unbelievable skill with the bow. Mechanically, Levortin “Do you want a few pointer's” Goldmanse VII's is a fighter with feats and abilities all oriented towards archery. He also has two singular, god-given advantages. He is under a permanent (for now) True Strike effect whenever he uses a bow, granting him +20 to all archery shots, in addition to his other bonuses. He is also the luckiest man in the world. Whenever he needs to roll a d20, he rolls three d20s and chooses the best result. While he's not necessarily a proud man (“I have been blessed in life,”) he can be a bit condescending and his constant cheerfulness tends to grate after awhile. The PCs should be ready to knock him down a peg or two by the time they leave Baskue with Levortin “I should be the one to carry that,” Goldmanse VII now in possession of the Perfect Arrow.

A second attack occurs on the way to Demarn. This attack features a small group of strangely dressed individuals armed with weapons of steel and glass which fire beams of light. The weapons are mechanical, not magical, and they do not work for anyone but their original owners. While in Demarn, the party must wait for a few days as the “Sword of Darkness” is finished. Certain of the PCs are approached by a man named Leon Talstiv, who has a method of besting Levortin “I never miss” Goldmanse VII in an archery contest. The method is slightly underhanded, involving some minor illusion magic, a really powerful enchanted arrows, and a set of complex and powerful enchantments on the archer. Leon is hoping to clean up by betting against the Kingdom's best archer and winning. Whether or not the PCs agree to help, Leon arranges his contest and talks Levortin “tricks will never work against me” Goldmanse VII into competing. Surprisingly, Leon's plan works and Levortin “I lost!” Goldmanse VII loses his first archery contest ever.

Losing the contest irrevocably changes Levortin “What happened?” Goldmanse VII's fortunes. His true strike[/] effect is gone and now, whenever he makes a d20 roll, he rolls three dice and chooses the lowest. Furthermore, his poor luck is catching. Whenever he rolls a 1, he inflicts bad luck on all allies within 30 feet so that they must themselves, for 1 round, roll 2 dice for all d20 rolls and choose the lowest roll.

It is likely the party does not realize the full extent of their problem until after they obtain their next weapon and teleport themselves to the backdoor of the dragon's Morphic Palace.

The palace itself is a mixture of reality, dreams and illusions. Much of the reality is trapped; the traps being masked by illusions and hidden behind shifting dreamscapes. This makes navigation through the palace difficult, and all the more so when considering the presence of Levortin “Sorry, didn't mean to hit you with that shot” Goldmanse VII's bad luck. Unfortunately the terms of their Oath prevents the PCs from abandoning their companion until after the deed is done.

In addition to the challenges posed by the changing nature of the palace and the many traps, the castle houses elite soldiers from the past and the future, drawn into the present by the power of the Actuality Hook. While the soldiers from the past are more numerous, and something of an oddity from a scholarly perspective, the soldiers from the future are armed with powerful weapons from a variety of time periods. Some of these are magical; others are mechanical in nature, such as guns, flamethrowers and lasers.

Finally, after many fights and dangers, the party enters into the chamber where the dragon resides. To kill the dragon they must simply strike it forcefully with the sword, assuming they have not already used the sword. The sword will totally unmake a single creature with a single attack, but can only be used once. Attacking the dragon is harder due to the dragon's minions which attempt to prevent the party from closing in. The Actuality Hook floats in the center of the room and has an AC of 40. The perfect arrow, if it strikes it forcefully, will shatter it. All other attacks fail. Naturally the party should not let Levortin “I can't hit anything anymore” Goldmanse VII use the arrow, but he will attempt to fight next to them, with mixed results. If the party destroys the Actuality Hook but not the dragon, the dragon's minions fade away into nothingness. If they destroy the dragon, but not the Hook, the armies remain but are now leaderless. If both are destroyed, the threat is done and the party can return in total victory.

Anachronism Raxkalmon the Mighty's army is comprised of people from the past and future

Successful Enterprise Leon Talstiv, a semi-shady gambler, concocts a scheme, successful in its implication, to have Levortin Goldmanse VII lose an archery match.

Figment The Morphic Palace of Raxkalmon the Mighty, draws power from the plane of dreams, bending reality and unreality. Also, the sword forged to kill Raxkalmon is not really a sword, but a piece of negative energy imposed upon the material plane in the illusory shape of a sword.

Insufferable Ally Levortin Goldmanse VII is not a bad person, but he is a bit hard to live with

Something Wicked Raxkalmon the Mighty, a two thousand year old Gold Dragon is possessed by one of the three psypossessors created by the wizard-lord Vonshpin in ancient Monassan and is quite wicked.

Singularity Levortin Goldmanse VII is a singular, utterly unique individual, blessed and cursed by the gods. At the same time, the Actuality Hook provides a point of singularity at which all events in time and space within its vicinity potentially interconnect.

Radiating Gnome

Something Wicked Comes to Mars

Successful Enterprise
Insufferable Ally
Something Wicked


Any system which provides for multiple settings/times (so 3.5e D&D/D20 Modern/D20 Future; FATE, Savage Worlds, GURPS, etc).


This adventure is written as a one-shot, ideally at a convention or other setting where multiple tables are playing. This writeup with present the two table version. (Additional tables could be added if word count allowed.)

The slot is promoted and signed up as two different games, one called "Something Wicked Comes Back" and another called "Dinosaur Safari."

During the course of the session, the two tables will be mixed, then at the end they will join together for the final battle.

Dinosaur Safari Intro

This adventure starts with a team of steampunk/victorian era hunters and tourists preparing to go on a time-travel-empowered safari to hunt dinosaur. The PC's arrive, meet their guide, and set off through the time machine to the age of dinosaurs.

Shortly after their arrival, they are beset by a pack of raptors and it becomes clear the encounter will turn deadly very quickly.

Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud to the Rescue

A strange kite blows into the scene -- stitched together from many different bits of cloth, each one decorated with an open, fanged mouth. Riding it - tied to it's tail, is a skinny, bald, pale. In a grating voice (Leonard Nimoy doing a Gollum impression), he calls out to the group "Quickly, grab onto the tail, I'll get you out of here!"

Anyone who fails to grab on is killed by raptors.

Something Wicked Comes Back Intro

The adventurers start as people attending a traveling carnival. They are investigators asked to check out the carnival because young African American kids have apparently been going missing.

They arrive, start asking around, and find themselves cornered, surrounded by clansman and evil carnies -- too many of them -- who seem bent on killing them.

Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud to the Rescue

A strange kite blows into the scene -- stitched together from many different bits of cloth, each one decorated with an open, fanged mouth. Riding it - tied to it's tail, is a skinny, bald, pale. In a grating voice (Leonard Nimoy doing a Gollum impression), he calls out to the group "Quickly, grab onto the tail, I'll get you out of here!"

Anyone who fails to grab on is killed by clansmen.

Once they've grabbed on, they are whisked off into the sky -- in a swirling wind littered with autumn leaves. Yelling, Moundshroud introduces explains to them that their services are needed elsewhere in time. Oh, yes, and on Mars.

The Real Exposition

They are traveling to Mars in the year 2085. The red planet has been colonized for ten years, and the settlements are growing strong, thanks to an incredibly powerful powerplant called Bradbury Station, which is powered by a tiny quantum singularity.

The Singularity provides so much power, and is so stable, there has been unlimited power for the colonists, and as a result, the company that created it built a holographic amusement park around it (as a Star Trek Holodeck), also called Bradbury Station, and celebrating the works of it's namesake, Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury Station is a huge success. The quantum singularity at the heart of the plant provides more power than the entire mars colony can use, and the colonists love the park, in part because it lets them visit memories of lives back on earth.

However the power source is not benign. It's more than just a power source, it's a means for creating passages in Spacetime. The builders only discovered the ability of the singularity to create passages through spacetime when the singularity inadvertently became a portal to an extra dimensional prison containing a demonic presence. The Presence came through from the other side and infested the park -- turning the attractions against the people within the park.

The park is now sealed off.

The park administrators are now using the portal to find help, with the help of the Artificial Intelligence that runs the park and controls most of the holo animations -- those that have not been possessed by the presence.

Moundshroud himself is a animated figment, a character from a book called The Halloween Tree. He will be their guide, and the voice of the AI.

Navigating in the Park

The amusement park is like disney world, but dedicated to bringing the works of Ray Bradbury to life. There are areas dedicated to his major settings -- Mars (the version he imagined), many locations named for stories that are variations of early 20th century earth, etc.

At this point there are two groups, each riding in on a kite with their own version of Moundshroud. On the way in, the two vortexes bearing the kites collide, and the groups see each other. Then the kites veer too close to each other, and the tails get tangled. When they pull apart again, the two parties have been re-shuffled. (Roll randomly and send half of the players from each table to the other table, even those whose characters didn't make it out of the first encounter).

Replacements (Only if some PCs didn't make it out of the first encounter)

As the PCs are getting their bearings, slim figures approach from the "Bradbury's Mars" part of the park (one for each missing pc). When they arrive, they look into the eyes of characters who had originally been with the missing character, then shapeshift into that character.

The players of the dead PCs then take over again, and continue to play as if they'd survived the first encounter, with one change: As an action, the shapeshifter can become any other party member who has died (either in first encounter or since).

The Opposition

They are pursued by the Illustrated Man and a team of Firemen. In each location the Illustrated Man animates a different set of tattoos that bound out and challenge the PCs. Some are beasts (lions, wolves), others are human but just as deadly (serial killers, etc). These threats are backed up by Firemen.

The Illustrated Man is the primary avatar of the Presence (though, if defeated, he'll be back in the next scene). In each location the Illustrated Man animates a different set of tattoos that bound out and challenge the PCs. Some are beasts (lions, wolves), others are human but just as deadly (serial killers, etc). These threats are backed up by Firemen.

The Firemen are soldiers with flamethrowers. They especially like to burn anyone carrying books or paper of any kind.

The Ingredients

The two parties must gather four of five ingredients, then meet at the carousel for the final battle.

Moundshroud describes the five available items they could gather. They must have the wine, because that's what will drive the evil presence out of the Singularity. But, with two versions of MoundShroud, the two parties will be able to collect three other relics.

The Relics are: Dandelion Wine (required), Fog Horn, Scythe, Insinkerator, Golden Kite. They' won't be able to get all five, so they'll have to decide who goes after which relic. Moundshround can tell them what the rough date and location of the relic is (the setting of the story it's being taken from) but little more.

  • Dandelions Wine (From Green Town -- the early 20th century midwestern town that was the setting of many of Bradbury's stories) -- One team of PCs must travel to the town of Green Town to retrieve the Dandelion Wine from the Spaulding family -- the grandfather bottles it during the summer. The Illustrated Man and Firemen follow the PCs through and challenge them in the streets of this town while they recover the wine.
  • "The Fog Horn" (Mid 20th Century Maine Coast)- Fight a sea monster, a huge Kraken bring back the Fog Horn - Here the PCs must face a sea monster that is in the process of destroying a lighthouse -- once the Kraken is defeated the horn can be recovered and the PCs can return
  • The Scythe (From Early 20th century Kansas farm country)- A poor farmhouse in the middle of kansas. The PCs must recover a Scythe from the farmer. The Illustrated man, again
  • The Murderer's Insinkerator (Early 21st Century American City) - travel to a near future world to recover the garbage disposal of a man who is currently in an institution, after having destroyed all of his devices (computers, phones, radios, etc) with his garbage disposal.
  • The Golden Kite (Medieval China) -- Travel to ancient china to recover a kite -- actually a town wall in the shape of a kite. A section of the wall will do.

Moundshroud travels with both parties, serving as their guide & communicator between the two groups, and as a sort of greek chorus, narrating the action in his horrible, broken voice. He's quick to point out faults and report that the other group is doing far better.

The Final Battle

Once each party completes the second encounter, they make their way to the carousel at the heart of the park. The singularity -- a remarkably small power source, is housed in the control room at the center of the carousel. Gaining access means fighting their way to that control room, working through mechanical and digital security.

The two parties arrive at either end of the large open square that holds the carousel, where the Illustrated Man & his pets, as well as plenty more Firemen, are there to keep the PCs away from the singularity. There is no shortage of opponents, who keep being replaced when they are destroyed, so the PCs will need to use their recovered items and tactics to succeed. The horses on the carousel itself are animate and make the challenge of making it through to the center difficult.

The challenge in this encounter is to deliver the Dandelion wine to the center of the carousel - inside the control panes there is the singularity.

  • The Fog Horn can be used to draw all enemies towards it (it takes an action to operate the horn -- after it has been operated, every non-PC creature on the board must move towards the fog horn on it's turn.
  • The Scythe can be used to Strike down living opponents
  • The Insinkerator can be used to destroy robots, devices, and machines (including the horses on the carousel).
  • The Kite will carry two adjacent characters to any spot on the map as an action.

The two parties start on opposite sides of a large map, with the structure holding the Singularity at the center. Getting to it will require reaching the superstructure, opening the shields and dampeners that contain it, then going in to use the wine


Once the Dandelion Wine has been used on the singularity the Presence will be expelled from Mars and it's influence over the park is removed. Moundshroud can return the PCs to their own time and place, and Bradbury Station can go back to powering and entertaining the Mars Colony.

Ingredient Use
  • Anachronism - The player characters are actually pulled out of different times (actually stories) and don't belong in the time they're operating in.
  • Successful Enterprise - The powerplant and amusement park on mars, Bradbury Station.
  • Figment - The Illustrated Man, and the tattoo-summoned creatures it calls forth are the imaginary figments of the evil Presence
  • Insufferable Ally - Carapace Clavicle MoundShroud, the PCs guide through the adventure.
  • Something Wicked - The Presence/The Illustrated Man
  • Singularity - The power source at the center of the amusement park -- and also the gate to the Presence's Prison


Once A Fool
Championship Match Judgement: Wicht vs. Radiating Gnome

Oh boy. This is going to be a close one. It appears as if I find myself faced with the age-old IRON DM dilemma—whether to rule in favor of the superior ingredients use, or the better adventure. To make it more difficult, both entries are actually really close in both categories.

I'll start with the ingredients:

In Wicht's piece, “The Luck of the Mighty,” (henceforth, “Luck”) the Anachronism, or, rather, anachronisms, manifest themselves as armies of the dragon-villain. Warriors of the past—and the future. Other than to add flavor to the adventure, this seems not to be that important to the adventure, however. If the armies were anything else, it would play out just the same. This is doubly regrettable, because it actually seems to weaken the significance of the Actuality Hook, which could have been an interesting focus for the adventure. Radiating Gnome's “Something Wicked Comes to Mars” (henceforth, “Something”) does a much better job with this ingredient. In this case, the PCs are the anachronisms—a far more compelling use!

The Successful Enterprise in “Something” is far less compelling. It makes for great scenery (and plays in with the carnival setting that the title implies). But, in the end, it's really only scenery. “Luck” manages something more potent, if far less predominant. The successful enterprise of the cheating gambler, Leon Talstiv, is but a small section of the adventure, but it changes everything. The only problem here—and it's a big one—is that it's set up to be inevitable. I think the scenario would play much better if the PCs actually had a chance of foiling it.

In “Luck,” we are presented with not just one Figment, but a choice of one and a palace full of them. While flavorful, the importance of the Morphic Palace is really only atmospheric. Don't get me wrong—it's great atmosphere—but, again, really just scenery. And calling a sword made of negative energy a figment is a stretch—although, because it's negative energy (void?), I can see it. In the end, though, the ingredient suffers from being stretched too far. It's not a thematic ingredient, so I suppose I'm meant to pick whichever one I like best.

“Something” gets around this by actually making it a thematic ingredient. And, in a rather clever—if gimmicky way. Yes, there's the Illustrated Man and his tattoos. There's Moundshroud and the amusement park, itself. These are mere echoes of the whole adventure, however. The unusual convention scenario is a bit of a gamble, but, I can see it being pulled off successfully—trick the players into thinking they are playing two separate games (a meta-figment, if you will). Mix them up, split them up again, then combine them at the end. It could work.

Regrettably, “Something” doesn't quite pull off the Insufferable Ally. First of all, I'm really not sure how Moundshroud qualifies as an ally—aside from serving as a deus ex machina in the early (split) scenarios, he mostly just spectates and taunts the players. I don't even get a sense of just how he is insufferable—we definitely needed to be shown more. In this sense, he is infuriating, but not necessarily insufferable.

Meanwhile, “Luck” shows off it's strongest ingredient, here. Levortin “I really love how his name is used to convey his character” Goldmanse VII comes off as truly insufferable ally throughout the entire adventure, first as an incredibly annoying super-NPC, and then as a total liability. Brilliant! That's one great character!

...Which brings us to the uninspired, Something Wicked in “Luck.” Okay, it is interesting that the villain is one of the psypossessors alluded to in Wicht's round 2 entry (in case you all didn't notice, all three of his entries form a sort of short adventure-path). The thing is, this one isn't given nearly enough attention to feel fleshed out and interesting. Even it's motivation seems kind of weak.

On the other hand, “Something” takes the ingredient and runs with it. I find it interesting that the piece went so thoroughly toward Bradbury, rather than Shakespeare, with its inspiration. As a villain, though, the Illustrated Man in this entry is not well enough defined—neither in personality, nor motivation—to really qualify as interesting. I find this particularly strange, given that hewing a little closer to the thematic elements of the inspiring source material actually could have helped. Ultimately, there's a lot of homage, but it isn't tied together well enough to feel more than superficially thematic and the ingredient—which is meant as a theme for the entire piece, suffers for it.

And then, there's the Singularity. In “Something,” it is used as a power-source for the amusement park that also doubles as the means of transporting the PCs through time and space on their grand scavenger hunt. This usage works. In “Luck,” it is similarly used as the Actuality Hook—the means through which the dragon amasses a needlessly anachronistic army. This usage is fairly weak—but it's really more of a throw-away, anyway. There is a singularity that is the focal point of the entire adventure (really, the main challenge of the entire adventure)--and that, of course, is the gods-blessed (and cursed) Levortin “Seriously, this is a brilliantly efficient way to convey personality” Goldmanse VII.

So, that's it. The ingredients in “Luck” are, in general, a little more cleverly implemented, a little more tightly interwoven, and a little more inspired than those in “Something.” The adventure is a little linear (on its surface), but looks fun. Meanwhile, “Something” has a very creative approach to the structure of the adventure—and looks like it could be a ton of fun, in a Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure kind of way.

I like it. But it's not enough. It's just far too sloppy—really, unfinished. I feel like the ideas in it could really have shaped up into something special, but the entry really needed another pass of editing. There are sections that are incomplete, a lot of the really good ideas are under-developed (like the hooks; they really should involved some PC decision), and details that would help the DM run what could be a challenging setup are often lacking. It feels rushed. Frankly, I think this entry was just a little bit too ambitious and it didn't quite work.

Radiating Gnome, you know your stuff—and your continual willingness to push the boundaries of what an entry can and should be is commendable. Your skill at doing so is remarkable. But, the thing about taking risks is, sometimes they don't work out. Them's the breaks.

And, anyway, Wicht's adventure is actually a little more complex than it at first appears. That bit I said at the beginning about having to choose between better ingredients or a better adventure turns out not to be quite accurate. On the surface, the adventure is just a trek to collect some tools and then slay a foe. That's pretext. This adventure is really about getting along with an unlikeable NPC because you have too—something that (in my experience) most PCs will go to great lengths to avoid throughout an entire campaign. In its own way, this adventure presents no less of a paradigm-shift in adventure-expectations than does Radiating Gnome's entry. The difference is, this one is (mostly) polished and just very well-presented.

Congratulations, Wicht. You are 2013's IRON DM!

Radiating Gnome

Crap. Always a bridesmade.

Congratulations, Wicht, on a well-deserved win.

I didn't have time to write down any notes about writing my entry beforehand, but I think you're right on in your critique, Rune.

In coming up with my plan, Something Wicked and the singularity, of all things, put me in a place where I needed to be working with Bradbury as the inspiration. The anachronism led me to the dual game/convention gimmick, which I thought was fun, and I had intended to have a third table as well. I fell in love with the idea of placing the adventure on Mars, because of Bradbury's Mars connection -- but also because so much of his writing was about 20th century america, the amusement park there would be a nostalgic look back at home for the colonists.

But, by the time I'd committed to putting it all together, things started to really feel like they were unraveling for me. And it's all Ray Bradbury's fault.

Bradbury was a serious writer -- a science fiction writer, but not really a writer of escapist adventure stories. He wrote mostly about human beings dealing with human problems on a sci fi canvas. And, as it turns out, that can become very difficult to stitch together into amusement park exhibits and adventure settings.

So, in trying to finish up this entry, I felt like I was trying to put icing on a cake that was falling. I'd prop up one area, and something else would collapse. MoundShroud just felt wrong to me. I needed him -- he was the character that fit the need I had for traveling through time and space, and he was my best bet at insufferable ally, but he was too much of a cartoon for the rest of this -- his texture didn't fit. He's cartoonish and silly in a piece that has none of those textures anywhere else.

It started to feel like Bradbury was working against me. That jerk.

Sunday night, I'd been working on it trying to fix things up, and I reached a point where I knew I had really big problems. I could have tried to go back to the drawing board at that point, stay up until the wee hours and try to come up with something different, but instead I took one more gamble. Usually, when I get stuck like this, if I sleep on it, I'll come up with a solution overnight -- just getting away, sleeping, tends to shake things out for me.

Usually. Not this time. I woke up and I still had the same problems. So, I spent my last few hours trying to get the icing on the fallen cake just right, and turned it in.

No regrets, though. It was a gamble worth taking. I still think the convention gimmick was a fun one to use, and the Anachronism ingredient made this a perfect time for that kind of schtick. And looking back at the choices I was making -- running with the idea of an amusement park in the future that, in many ways, is looking back at our world -- it's a fun idea. And, I'm sure that in about three days a few more things will click into place and I'll know what I should have done. But gambles don't always pay off.

So, congrats to [MENTION=221]Wicht[/MENTION], again, and thanks to [MENTION=67]Rune[/MENTION] for running the show!



Once A Fool
To be fair, I think that the multiple-table scenario wouldn't have felt like a gimmick if you had had the time to edit more and to add some helpful details. It felt more like an outline of how to organize the game than a fleshed-out adventure. It was very ambitious--so much so that it was clear you would have preferred another day to work on it.


Thanks Rune for running the show this year!

And RG, I would have been quite satisfied to have lost to your entry. I sort of "pre-judged" the two entries before Rune did and, ingredient wise, came to much the same conclusions as he and decided the final verdict would probably fall down to judge-preference. The idea of a whole adventure revolving around a holographic Ray Bradbury themepark was quite a good idea and I would have liked to have seen it better fleshed out.

The word-count (of which I am a huge fan of in Iron DM) was a big factor in this one. It, by its very nature, forces hard choices on how to present your material. Going into this one, I knew I wanted to do a continuation of the little mini-series of adventures I had started, and that I wanted a psypossessed gold dragon to figure into it. The gold dragon had come to me when doing Round 2, and though I did not bring it into that one, I thought it would make a good villain. That being said, after reading the list of ingredients, it was the insufferable ally I focused on first and much of my brainstorming had to do with that character. The anachronism was originally going to be soldiers brought in from the past, but that expanded as I developed the idea of an actuality hook. The twin ingredients of singularity and anachronism lent themselves to a primary direction, one adopted by both myself and my opponent; although I decided early on that the singular nature of the insufferable ally would be a good double ingredient.

As can probably be seen from reading the entry, the something wicked and figment ingredients did not get the brainstorming love the others did (I was driving, there was a cop involved, and my wife was a little upset with me when I confessed what I was daydreaming about). But more than this, the word-count meant that I had to stop adding to (I ended up cutting out about 200 words after my first draft to bring it below word count as it was).

I am pleased that the judge realized that the true point of this adventure was not in defeating the bad-guys, but in dealing with the luck of the insufferable ally (hence the title). I am equally pleased that I got to tie in the adventures of three different rounds into one another (that has been a goal of mine). And I am looking forward to defending the title in the next go around.

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
Hey folks! Just an update on what happened to Quadrial's Tower, my entry that disappeared a while ago.
It's in the newest issue of Pathways! I've got an (excellent, I'm told) interview in Pathways #32, but Quadrial's Tower appears in Pathways #33 (and got props from Endzeitgeist, which is always nice).

Check it out; Pathways #33 and all the other issues are pay what you want (which can be $0) and free, depending on where you look. Snazzy artwork included!

Good luck to all of next year's contestants! Thanks again!